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New jewel for Hughes' empire?

As Chris Hughes approaches his last term as chief executive of the Learning and Skills Development Agency, he can look back with pride at a remarkable success story.

In the four years since taking control, he has transformed it from the relatively small-time and virtually unknown Further Education Development Agency to a pound;30 million-plus empire, chosen by Education Secretary Charles Clarke this spring as the vehicle for his cherished post-16 improvement strategy.

Hughes has gone for world-domination in almost every area of quality assurance - creating a politically independent research think-tank along the way.

The only quality area the agency has not dabbled in is inspections. But all that could change. FErret hears that a front-runner in a very tight pack of potential successors to Chris is FE Focus columnist David Sherlock - head of the Adult Learning Inspectorate.

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